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Grovetown settles whistle-blower lawsuit

Posted: May 14, 2017 - 1:03am

The city of Grovetown opted to settle a whistle-blower's lawsuit for $150,000.

The settlement was entered on May 2 in the U.S. District Court lawsuit filed by Michele Payne in November against Grovetown, Human Resource Director Elaine Matthews, Utilities Director Renee Beard, the former mayor George Jones, and former city clerk Vicky Capetillo who resigned in the midst of a federal investigation into the city's finances.

The city doesn't admit any liability but Payne's attorney Jeff Peil said Payne's side insisted on no confidentiality in the settlement. The public needs to know what happened in the city of Grovetown, he said.

Peil said he and Payne thought $150,000 seemed fair, adding that she only made $26,000 a year and is still capable of working, Peil said. They based the amount on a recent settlement of a whistle-blower case in Richmond County in which the commission approved $200,000 for an assistant coroner who made twice the salary as Payne, Peil said.

Payne contended her Dec. 26, 2015, termination was in retaliation for her discovery that although checks were coming into the utility department, they weren't being cashed.

The city of Grovetown also settled a class-action lawsuit for $750,000 to settle claims that residents' utility rates were inflated to cover the theft and fraud going on. Capetillo was also a defendant in that lawsuit.

Capetillo, the stepdaughter of Councilman Dennis Trudeau who has been a fixture of Grovetown government for nearly 30 years, resigned in August. She was placed on administrative leave in the midst of a forensic audit of the utility department and other city funds. A federal investigation is still ongoing.

Payne is pleased with the settlement, Peil said, and feels a certain sense of vindication now.


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Sweet son

Drain the Swamp aka Grovetown government

It's been a long time coming but it seems like the Mayor and council are finally trying to clean up all of the nepotisim and 'good ole boy' politics in the city government. Some of the things that have gone on and some that are still occurring makes for a good read for me. They have been and are so dumb that I have to just laugh!

I am waiting on the next revelation!